Pace of widening NH 66 in stark contrast to Gadkari’s claims

 Never ending:  Work on the flyover at Thokkottu Junction has been going on for seven years, near Mangaluru.

Never ending: Work on the flyover at Thokkottu Junction has been going on for seven years, near Mangaluru.

The four-laning work of National Highway 66 (Edapally-Panvel) between Talapady (Karnataka-Kerala border) and Majali (Karnataka-Goa border) is in stark contrast to the tall claims made by Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari of building an average 30 km highway every day across the country.

The project has not been speeded up despite BJP MPs — Nalin Kumar Kateel (Dakshina Kannada), Shobha Karandlaje (Udupi-Chikkamagaluru), and Anantkumar Hegde (Uttara Kannada) — representing coastal Karnataka.

Four-laning of this important link between North and South India has three parts. The first part of 17 km between Nanthoor and Surathkal was developed under the Port Connectivity Project between 2005 and 2013. The second part of developing Talapady-Nanthoor and Surathkal-Kundapur (90 km), started in 2010, is yet to get completed, while the third part of widening 187.24 km from Kundapur to Majali near Karwar whose work started in 2014 is still limping.

The Talapady-Kundapur stretch is almost complete but for two crucial flyovers in Mangaluru and a 2-km road in Padubidri town in Udupi district. Nevertheless, concessionaire Navayuga Udupi Tollway is allowed to collect toll.

NHAI authorities claim the concessionaire is facing fund crunch, thereby delaying flyover construction, while tussle among residents about the alignment — whether within the town or through bypass — has delayed the Padubidri stretch.

While the Kundapur-Goa border stretch ((187.24 km) too has missed the August 2016 deadline compelling NHAI to extend deadline to February 2019, residents allege substandard work by concessionaire IRB West Coast Tollway, a subsidiary of IRB Infra. Devidas Shanbhag, a businessman from Maravanthe, alleged that no foundation was formed while improving the existing carriageway; only the top bitumen was scrapped to lay fresh coat of bitumen.

Ganesh Bhat, a resident of Bhatkal, said soil was indiscriminately dumped to fill gorges and road was being built without stabilising it.

The stretch had witnessed frequent landslides because of unscientific straight-cutting of hillocks instead of slope-cutting, including at Kumta and Byndoor.

Craters, potholes near port

While New Mangalore Port has been the gateway to Karnataka, National Highway 66 connecting the port to other parts of the State is fraught with craters and potholes. Thousands of trucks originate and terminate from and at the port, joining the traffic on NH 66. The authority promptly collects toll at NITK Surathkal toll plaza. NHAI has proposed complete revamp of the stretch under Sagar Mala project while promising to repair the road in a month.

Land acquisition causing delay

Admitting delay in completing four-laning of NH 66, NHAI authorities claimed a part of it was owing to land acquisition problems. Required lands were not handed over by the State government in time, said a senior official. Frequent local interferences to change alignment, reduce width of carriageway, change location of under/over-passes and so on too contributed to the delay, the official said. However, the official was mum about the alleged substandard work between Kundapur and Goa border.

Tale of flyovers in Mangaluru

While two uni-directional flyovers on NH 66 under Port Connectivity Project have almost proved a failure, NHAI is yet to build flyovers/grade separators at two major junctions in Mangaluru thereby contributing to frequent accidents. On Thursday, a woman was killed when a speeding bus was hit by a truck at Nanthoor Circle, the junction of NH 75 (Mangaluru-Bengaluru) and NH 66. Traffic snarls are regular at KPT Junction too, where the Airport Road meets NH 66. The flyovers at Surathkal and Kottara in Mangaluru have only added to traffic miseries, with NHAI now proposing to build another set of uni-directional flyovers to make them two-way.

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Printable version | Oct 3, 2022 7:50:17 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/pace-of-widening-nh-66-in-stark-contrast-to-gadkaris-claims/article21386336.ece